An exciting season in the Production Vehicle category of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) can be expected when the Mpumalanga 400, the season opener kicks into gear on 15 and 16 March in the fly-fishing town of Dullstroom in Mpumalanga. The 2018 champions are back to defend their titles and if the competition of the previous season is anything to go by, the 2019 SACCS will have enthusiasts on the edge of their seats rooting for and supporting their favourite teams.
The Dullstroom area will play host to national as well as international competitors in their world-class racing equipment. Spectators and followers of the SACCS are in for a treat be it in person at the event or following it on the various social media platforms.
With their historical first Dakar Rally victory earlier this year, still fresh in everyone’s memory, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team has two teams with one change in the field for the season. Overall Production Vehicle Champions, Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy will defend their titles with the same version of the Dakar Rally winning Toyota Hilux as will Class FIA drivers’ champion, Henk Lategan. Lategan will, however, have a new navigator next to him as former Dakar Rally motorcycle finisher, Brett Cummings, will be reading the notes.
Cummings has completed the Dakar Rally twice in the motorcycle category and has competed in various international events. He is looking forward to the new experience with Toyota Gazoo Racing SA and Lategan while the team are excited to be making full use of his experience.
Also, in a Toyota Hilux and chasing more victories in the FIA Class, are Chris Visser and Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who finished the 2018 season on the podium behind the two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA teams. Visser/Herselman were the runners-up in the FIA Class at the 2018 Mpumalanga 400 and will aim for another good start to the season.
Terence Marsh will field three Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara’s in the Mpumalanga 400 and will be behind the wheel of one of these vehicles designed and manufactured in South Africa, but which also compete internationally.
For Marsh and Red-Lined Motorsport it is not always about winning, but about the adventure and experience and for these reasons he invites different navigators to partner him at events. His navigator for the Mpumalanga 400 will be announced in due course.
The rest of the Red-Lined Motorsport team will be represented by former Class G competitor Ernest Roberts and the experienced Riaan Greyling and new comers to the championship Namibian rallyists Jaco van Dyk and Michael Rust.
Schalk Burger has moved from the Special Vehicle category to the Production Vehicle category and is now also behind the wheel of a Red-Lined Motorsport built Nissan Navara with talented navigator Elvéne Vonk next to him. Burger also has plans to participate in the Dakar Rally and will use the 2019 SACCS season in preparation for this upcoming adventure.
The Elf Renault Duster team of Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson had an up and down season last year with the highlight two podium results that included a good result to round off the 2018 season. They will be back for more racing action and aim to put their Renault Duster on the podium as often as possible.
While the battles in the FIA Class and Class T will be as tightly contested as ever, the race for the best overall standing in the Production Vehicle category is a real one. At the end of the 2018 season, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable, now competing in Ford Castrol Cross Country Team colours in their Class T Ford Ranger, rounded off the overall Production Vehicle podium behind the two Class FIA Toyota Gazoo Racing SA entries.
Woolridge/Huxtable will go all out to defend their Class T championship titles. Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer, who finished third in the Class T standings will start the season in the second Ford Castrol Cross Country Team Ranger. Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea in another Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger will not be at the Mpumalanga 400, but the class is packed with more Ford Ranger teams.
Richard Leeke Jnr. and Danie Stassen now in a Ford Ranger aim to build on their solid performance last year. They claimed two Class T podiums including a good result at the inaugural Mpumalanga 400 and can be a team to watch out for.
Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) will also be on the start line and more good results can be expected from this committed team.
If there is one thing Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) would like to achieve at the beginning of the 2019 season, it will be to finish and hopefully win the Mpumalanga 400 as this was the only event, they could not finish last year. Two Class T victories and two more podium positions during the season resulted in them finishing as runners-up in the Class, but points at the season opener could have changed their season completely. The Atlas Copco Hilux team will no doubt go all out for victory at Dullstroom.
The 2017 Class T champions, Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) were also involved in the epic title battle last year, but a few gremlins here and there including not being able to score at the final round, resulted in them having to settle for fourth place in the Class T standings. If all goes according to plan, the Horn brothers can equal or better their result of the 2018 Mpumalanga 400 when they finished second behind Woolridge/Huxtable. A good result will be what the doctor ordered for the team to get their bid for the title off to a good start.
Rally driver, Theuns Joubert and navigator Henry Köhne will take their Elf Renault Duster to its second SACCS event after participating in the final event of the 2018 season where they also scored their first results. The Joubert/Köhne combination can be the spanner in the works and it will be interesting to see how their season gets underway.
In Class S, defending champions, David Huddy and Gerhard Schutte will again bring their Nissan Navara to the battlefield where they aim for a class victory and the best overall result.
The Village Green Cricket Oval is the place to be on Friday and Saturday where the Start/Finish, designated service park (DSP) and Race Headquarters for the Mpumalanga 400 will be situated. On Friday, 15 March the event will be officially opened by the Executive Mayor, Councillor TD Ngwenya at 13:15 before the 65 kilometre qualifying race gets the racing activities going at 13:30. The results determine the starting order for the main race on Saturday, 16 March.
On Saturday the action starts at 08:30 from the Village Green Cricket Oval where teams will also have a 30 minute compulsory service halt after the completion of the first of the two 161km loops that make up the main race. Enthusiasts and supporters can get up close and personal with their favourite teams for poster signing before the teams tackle the final loop at 12:00.
Refreshments will be available throughout the event at the Village Green Cricket Oval and entry to this area as well as various vantage points along the route, is free.
SACCS enthusiasts can follow the Mpumalanga 400 on the RallySafe App available to download free of charge for iOS and Android devices.